Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Son should pursue case of mom's death: lawyer

Criminal attorney who reviewed file sees sufficient evidence

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A prominent criminal lawyer in Winnipeg believes Jim Garwood should continue his fight to find out if the 2004 death of his elderly mother was an accident or something more sinister.

Lawyer Mike Cook reviewed the evidence Garwood collected in 2008 and came to one conclusion: There's enough to warrant a further investigation.

"The longer a file sits, the more likely the evidence is to dissipate," Cook said in his report. "I would certainly suggest pursuing this with due vigour."

Cook said this week he believes a further investigation is needed to see if there are reasonable and probable grounds to make an arrest.

Garwood said Wednesday he took the material to Cook to get a perspective of someone who deals in the criminal justice system. He's been battling the police department -- even taking them to court to get them to turn over evidence in the case -- for about five years in the hope they launch a full-scale homicide investigation.

Police say they've taken the case as far as they can go and have no evidence Jessie Garwood, 87, died of anything other than a fall down the basement stairs at her Windsor Park home. They even sent their file to Saskatoon police to review because of pressure from Jim Garwood over not identifying a suspect.

Saskatoon police found Winnipeg police did everything by the book.

Garwood also points to a letter written by Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, to Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill a year ago in which Balachandra said he believed foul play might have been involved in the woman's death. Garwood obtained the letter through a freedom-of-information request.

"I think it would be prudent to investigate this case further, as it appears that foul play may have been involved in this case,'' Balachandra wrote.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office said Balachandra would not comment on the letter.

Garwood said he believes a family member, the last person to see his mother alive and the one who, along with a neighbour, found her dead in the basement, knows more about the case than she's told police.

Police have already interviewed that person; she has not been charged with any crime.

Garwood is suing her for wrongful death. The case remains before the courts. The Free Press is not naming the woman because she faces no criminal charges, and civil allegations against her have not been proven in court.

In a statement her lawyer, Graeme Young, released Wednesday, the woman said she would have never done any harm to Jessie Garwood.

"While I am certain that I was one of the last people to see Jessie Garwood alive, I confirm, as I always have, that Jessie Garwood was alive when I last saw her. I had nothing to do with the death of Jessie Garwood, which the Winnipeg Police Service have thoroughly investigated on more than one occasion," she said.

"This constant campaign by Mr. Garwood to blame me for Jessie Garwood's death has had a devastating effect on my life, my well-being, and I look forward to the day when the Court of Queen's Bench dismisses this specious claim against me."

Jim Garwood also said there's some material he's been unable to collect in his mother's case, including a 911 audiotape and transcript of a call placed after his mother's body was discovered Feb. 22, 2004.

He said he's also missing a box of evidence police gathered at the scene, which he said police appear to have misplaced.

"They never even picked up the three bloodstained sticks that were at my mother's feet," he said.

A report by an Edmonton consultant who reviewed police evidence at the scene has said bloodstains and patterns suggest another person was present when the woman died.

Garwood also said police never interviewed a neighbour who was present when his mother's body was found until 2007 when he raised the matter. A transcript of that police interview is also missing.

"I'm just at a total loss," Garwood said of police. "I keep presenting the stuff all the way along and nothing has ever seemed to happen."

But lawyer Young said the independent bloodstain expert's report is based on incomplete knowledge in that he did not have access to the death scene as Winnipeg police did.

Elderly woman

was wearing alarm


JIM Garwood says his elderly mother, Jessie, wore a Victoria Lifeline alarm around her neck.

She lived alone so if something went wrong, she'd press it for help.

Garwood said on the night she died, he believes she pressed her alarm. Victoria Lifeline called her house almost immediately, but there was no answer.

On a third call to the house, someone else answered. That person, a family member, told Victoria Lifeline Jessie had slipped and fallen in the hallway but was OK.

Police only obtained the audiotape of the call after Jim Garwood told them about it in 2007.

He said if his mother had slipped in the hallway, she would have been only a few feet away from the speakerphone and would have been able to speak for herself.

"She is not present in the conversation. Somebody else is. And you can't just accidently bump into the door and have (the alarm) go off. It just doesn't automatically go off."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A4

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